Faith-Based Organizations

Sojo Stories: Immunizing 250 Million Children By 2015

Film footage via GAVI Alliance
Film footage via GAVI Alliance

According to UNICEF, 29,000 children under the age of five – 21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable diseases.

The GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership aimed at increasing worldwide access to immunizations, has a goal of reaching 250 million children by 2015. Dr. Mercy Ahun, GAVI special representative in Geneva, sat down with Sojourners to discuss the role of faith-based organizations in helping reach those 250 million,and the role her own personal faith plays in her work.

“What really got me into public health is my time in the children’s wards. We were working with children who had preventable diseases,” Ahun said. “… I thought to myself, why should stay here waiting for the children to fall sick before they come to the hospital. It’s better actually to go out there and prevent this in the first place.”

A League of God's Own

Don McClanen has founded five major Christian ministries, including the 2-million-person Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the influential Ministry of Money. His life has been a circuitous path, from coaching basketball at a junior college to founding FCA, followed by initiating a ministry to inner-city youth in Washington, D.C.; starting a church-renewal ministry; creating Ministry of Money to help people follow Christ in their financial lives; becoming a spiritual guide for numerous groups of pilgrims to build relationship with people in poverty-stricken and war-torn communities in developing countries; ministering to the wealthy; and raising millions of dollars for projects to aid poor communities around the world.

When Don heard those calls, which most others might have considered implausible or even impossible, he responded with an emphatic “yes.” One of Don’s favorite sayings is from Alfred North Whitehead: “Without the high hope of adventure, religion degenerates into a mere appendage of a comfortable life.”

IN FEBRUARY 1946, the day Don was discharged from the Navy after serving on a submarine in World War II, a Navy lieutenant standing on a train platform asked him offhandedly, “What are you going to do now, sailor?”

Don replied, “Well, I’m probably going to go to college.”

The lieutenant said Don should consider Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State). The suggestion grabbed Don’s attention. He knew the university’s football team ranked third in the country, behind Army and Navy. And its basketball team, coached by the legendary Henry Iba, had just won its second straight national title.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine August 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Out of Harm's Way

Scan the pews on a typical Sunday morning, and it’s likely that several women within eyeshot have been hit, verbally abused, stalked, or raped by the men in their lives. In the United States and worldwide, gender-based violence affects one in three women, regardless of how much money she makes, her level of education, or where she lives. The abuse taxes a woman in every way—emotionally, physically, mentally, and economically—as well as our society as a whole.

Clergy and other religious figures are often the initial point of contact for women seeking help, and while some congregations can offer counseling or other resources, most often women need a more extensive network—emergency shel­ter, financial help, or medical care, for example. These kinds of services depend on strong community support—and that requires funding.

But women seeking a way out of abusive situations may face a dwindling number of options. In January, President Bush proposed a budget that cuts $120 million from the 14-year-old Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a federal law that supports programs including transitional housing, domestic violence hotlines, the enforcement of protection orders, and anti-violence education and training on campuses. That’s 30 percent of its funding. So in addition to the difficult, and often dangerous, task of leaving her abuser, a woman faces the equally Herculean task of trying to heal and rebuild her and her children’s lives with diminishing support from her local community.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine June 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

True Transformation

“God Behind Bars,” by Nancy Hastings Sehested, September-Octo­ber 2007) was a very good article. As one who’s been there, I can assure everyone that the love of God is powerful in prison. I’ve never sensed such power in any church service—before or since. Most of the prisoners are very receptive to faith-based programs and have a hunger for them. I firmly believe that if more were available, the rate of prisoners re-offending would drop in half.

Name withheld by request
Birmingham, Alabama

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January 2008
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Faith-Based Fraud

David Kuo is the author of a new book called Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. Kuo was a special assistant to the president and the number two official at the White House office on faith-based initiatives from 2001-03. He could be a big problem for the Bush administration, because he asserts that the famous White House faith-based initiative fell far short of its bold promises, was a cover-up for very bad domestic policies on poverty, and was cynically politicized to serve partisan Republican purposes.

It’s strong stuff. Kuo says he was “dazzled” by George W. Bush and his idea of “compassionate conservatism,” but that Bush never followed through with his promises. The actual funding fell far short of the $8 billion the president personally pledged for his faith-based initiative—about 1 percent of the pledge—while effective domestic programs for low-income families were slashed to pay for tax cuts mostly favoring the rich.

Bush talked a lot about his faith-based program but never fought for it, according to Kuo. He believes the president’s campaign speech on faith-based initiatives “was one of the most important political addresses given in the last generation,” but Kuo says the failure to deliver on those promises came before 9/11. In the end, Bush delivered only “a whisper” of the promise and let the “compassion agenda” languish.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine December 2006
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

New and Noteworthy

Good News

If you’re thinking of building a housing ministry, put Making Housing Happen: Faith-Based Affordable Housing Models, edited by Jill Suzanne Shook, in your toolbox. Beginning with chapters on our national housing crisis and a biblical rationale for affordable housing, the book goes on to highlight church ministries and nonprofits that are providing affordable housing—and hope—all over the country. Bob Lupton, Mary Nelson, Millard Fuller, and other experts provide on-the-ground details. Chalice Press

Start Paddling

We all have something to give; we can do something now; and many of us will give if we’re presented with the opportunity, write Gary Morsch and Dean Nelson in The Power of Serving Others. Their little book is packed with stories from their respective careers—Morsch as founder of relief group Heart to Heart International and Nelson as a journalist. You don’t have to have money or specialized skills to help others, the authors say. Just start where you are. Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Words of Wisdom

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a class from Henri Nouwen on spiritual direction? Two of his former associates, Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird, have woven together Nouwen’s lecture notes, presentations, and homilies on the topic to create Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. Nouwen’s spirit permeates the book, which is structured around 10 universal questions for living the spiritual life. HarperSanFrancisco

Singing a New Song

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine August 2006
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

On A Wing And A Prayer

Recently, I met a Christian executive whose grandfather lost his twin brother to the flu pandemic of 1918 that took 50 million lives globally. I myself was quarantined for two weeks in the college chapel at Cascade College in Portland during the 1957 flu pandemic. That strain only cost 2 million lives around the world.

Are we ready for the “next big one”—the potential pandemic of H5N1 or “avian flu”? Undoubtedly, you’ve read about the epidemic among poultry in Asia that has resulted in the wholesale slaughter of infected fowl in Vietnam, Thailand, and China. Nearly 200 people have contracted the infection and 90 have died. In the last few months, the flu has spread to countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. It is only a question of time before it reaches North America.

When Katrina hit last year, churches were among the first responders. One of the under-reported outcomes of Hurricane Katrina is that churches around the United States are training disaster preparedness teams—and many are currently tooling themselves to respond to the avian flu.

Public health experts are deeply concerned at how easily the avian flu could morph into a human-to-human flu virus. We have nothing in our immune system that will recognize this new strain. As a consequence we could see a new human flu pandemic that could become global in a matter of weeks—and continue in waves around the world for 12 to 18 months.

Industry is leading the way in preparedness and taking counter-measures against this particular flu strain by developing effective virucidal agents. A number of local governments, such as King County, Washington, have developed comprehensive plans that could involve shutting down the entire region as long as three months at a time.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine June 2006
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Good Samaritans

Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, both 23, face felony charges for aiding people in the Arizona desert who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Their appeal to have the case against them dismissed was denied in January. Sellz and Strauss are volunteers with No More Deaths, a Tucson, Arizona-based coalition of faith-based groups that advocates for immigrant reform and provides food, water, and medical care to migrants crossing the desert.

Sellz told Sojourners she joined No More Deaths after living near the border and “witnessing countless instances where people were on the sides of the roads and no one was stopping to help.” Sellz and Strauss were arrested last July when they took three migrants to a hospital in Tucson. U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton charged the volunteers with transporting illegal aliens and conspiracy. Combined, the charges carry a maximum of 15 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, or both. Sellz said they are being prosecuted “for something I believe is not only right and legal, but is really necessary.” A record number of migrants—282—died near the Arizona-Sonora border between July 2004 and July 2005.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine March 2006
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Quality Time

Question:

Question: What is the secret ingredient in a successful faith-based mentorship program? Answer: Partnership.

Amachi (pronounced ah-MAH-chee), a Philadelphia-based program that matches volunteer mentors with children of prison inmates, has implemented a multilayer partnership that has led to widespread success and replication in cities across the United States. The program brings together local faith communities - with their lofty motivations and human resources - with area nonprofits like the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, foundations, and even the government. The strength of this partnership enables Amachi not only to ask for a commitment from volunteers, but also to encourage and support them throughout their time as mentors.

A basic marker of Amachi’s success is its volunteers’ staying power. Volunteers are expected to spend a minimum of one hour per week with a child for a period of one year. But of the 363 volunteers who are currently active with the program, almost 70 percent of them are well beyond that time commitment. The average monthly time investment is more than nine hours, more than double the original expectation.

Three years after Rev. Paul Karlberg was matched with 12-year-old Dasean, the associate pastor at Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Dasean are as connected as ever. Dasean sings in the Proclamation church choir, and this summer he is attending a two-week Christian camp for which Karlberg arranged a scholarship. Karlberg and Dasean go to museums together, attend concerts and ballgames, or just work on Dasean’s homework at his house.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January 2005
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Faith-Based Discrimination?

Can religious organizations choose to hire only people who share their beliefs? The issue is heating up again. Last December, President Bush issued an executive order allowing such discretion to faith-based organizations receiving federal funds. Similar provisions are being added to legislation including Head Start and the Workforce Investment Act. And the rhetoric is rising.

Some opponents claim that allowing faith-based organizations to use religious criteria in hiring is "government-sponsored bigotry" or a "roll-back on civil rights protections." Proponents answer that those who oppose it are trying "to torpedo funding for thousands of faith-based organizations." Neither is the case. The first step toward a solution is to identify the real questions.

This is an issue where deeply held values come into conflict and must be balanced. There are three important principles at stake. First, faith-based partnerships have an important role in finding new solutions to overcoming poverty. Second, the ability of faith-based organizations to maintain their religious identity and the freedom to hire people who share their religious mission, especially at leadership levels, is often vital to their effectiveness and integrity. Third, civil rights and anti-discrimination laws in the United States are fundamentally important. Any resolution must take all three principles seriously.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act's prohibition on employment discrimination allowed religious organizations to use religious criteria in hiring "ministerial" employees. That exemption was expanded in 1972 to include all employees of a faith-based organization. Since then, the issue has been raised in a variety of litigation—all of which upheld the exemption. It's not a new issue.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe